26 May 2022
By Roger Kennedy
It is the role of trainers to ensure that horses are in tip-top condition ahead of races. They do so by supervising staff, developing strategies, training, conditioning and keeping up to date with regulations. Successful trainers make a living by winning and placing in races, with some standing out from the crowd due to previous results. So, who are the most successful horse racing trainers in the history of the sport? Let’s take a closer look, including those who have achieved success over jumps and the flat, internationally and on home soil.
Irish trainer O’Brien was voted as the biggest influence in the sport by the Racing Post back in 2003. Having initially worked over jumps, O’Brien made the decision to focus on the flat in 1957. From there, he won the Epsom Derby six times. Nijinsky was one of those winners, who remains the last horse to win the English Triple Crown. O’Brien would finish his career with a massive 141 Group 1 victories to his name. One of O’Brien’s final successes was in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom in 1970, where Lester Piggott rode Nijinsky to glory. You can look at 10 Best Horse Jockeys of All Time too.
Despite being no relation, Aidan O’Brien took over from his namesake Vicent back in 1994. Aidan also recorded no fewer than six Derby wins, including Wings Of Eagle’s success in 2017. Aidan O’Brien broke the record for Group 1 wins in a calendar year, with 26. The final figure ended at 28, a number that is unlikely to be beaten any time soon.
Johnston became the most successful British Flat trainer in history in August 2018, when Poet’s Society won at York. This was his 4,194th winner, Poet’s Society was priced at 9/1 that day with the horse racing bookies.
Frenchman Fabre, a former jump jockey himself, has achieved vast levels of success since switching to a trainer. The 24x Champion Trainer has also won all five of the British Classics.
American trainer Pletcher is a 2x Kentucky Derby winner, with the second having come in 2017 with Always Dreaming. The 54-year-old has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer seven times, having beaten the record for the most stakes wins in a year back in 2006.
Former jockey Mullins is one of the finest Irish trainers of his generation. Mullins took his number of Cheltenham Festival wins to a record 61 in 2018, while he was also the first trainer to claim a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle in 2015.
While Pipe might not be the first name you think of when ranking trainers, while a larger list can be seen here, however, the 15x Champion Jumps Trainer winner rightfully makes our top 10. Having retired back in 2006, Pipe was the brains behind 200 winners in a season on eight occasions. Pipe’s son David is now in charge of the stable.
10x Champion Jumps Trainer Nicholls has won everything that there is to win over his career to date. Kuato Star, Denman and Master Minded have been his prized assets over the years. The British trainer’s rivalry with Mullins has long been a talking point.
Cummings is the most successful Australian trainer in history. Beginning his career in 1953, Cummings is a 12x Melbourne Cup winner. It, therefore, came as no surprise when he was inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame, while Cummings has also been part of the Order Of Australia since 1982.
Knight is one of the only female trainers to make our list. Now retired, Knight began her professional career in 1989, after training 100+ winners as an amateur. Knight helped Best Mate in winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in both 2002 and 2003, as well as the 2002 King George Chase and 2003 Ericsson Chase.